How to Deal with Borderline Personality Disorder (2022)

Happiness as in “feeling present and fully engaged” requires many skills and an open-hearted way of life, which is quite the challenge for most people. Many people are lonely and our culture often fails us in our pursuit of happiness. For those who suffer from Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), the challenge is even greater. The good news is, usually the symptoms of BPD lessen over time, especially when the person is supported in psychotherapy and psychiatry.

In all honesty, I do believe that we can be too unhappy to be happy, even though it is astounding how suffering changes once we take an honest look at ourselves. Acknowledging our rigidities allows us to face and embrace our suffering, do what we can, and surrender when there is nothing further to be done. With kind attention, we are likely to allow happiness into our lives despite intense, inner obstacles.

While this blog post is foremost for those who are connected with someone who suffers from BPD, I must mention here how important it is to diagnose this disorder accurately. It is notoriously difficult to differentiate between BPD and Bipolar disorders.1 I highly recommend reading the excellent article I have included in the references below. For example, the authors of this article, Robert S. Biskin and Joel Paris, remind everybody that the erratic behavior in BDP is not as much tied to ongoing and longer mood swings, but to problems occurring in relationships.

(Video) Borderline Personality Disorder: How to Work Through Highs & Lows

Recognizing the Symptoms of BPD

People who have BPD often suffer, but so do the people around them. It is hard to be present-minded when one is barraged by another person’s aggressive, impulsive, and/or chaotic behavior. It is easy to get hurt by someone who explodes in anger and contempt. Let us look at the symptoms of BPD before I make suggestions for how to respond to or become proactive with someone who is borderline.

Those with BPD have a pervasive pattern of instability in three main areas of life: interpersonal relationships, self-image, and affect. They act impulsively from a young age, even though we can only diagnose this disorder once the person is 18 years old. According to the DSM-52, the manual used to help diagnose psychiatric disorders, a person with BPD must meet at least five of the following criteria:

  1. Frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment (other than covered by criterion 5).
  2. A pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships characterized by alternating between extremes of idealization and devaluation.
  3. Identity disturbance: markedly and persistently unstable self-image or sense of self.
  4. Impulsivity in at least two areas that are potentially self-damaging, for example, spending, sex, substance abuse, reckless driving, binge eating (other than behavior covered in criterion 5).
  5. Recurrent suicidal behavior, gestures or threats, or self-mutilating behavior.
  6. Affective instability due to a marked reactivity of mood, for intense episodic dysphoria, irritability or anxiety usually lasting a few hours and only rarely more than a few days.
  7. Chronic feelings of emptiness.
  8. Inappropriate, intense anger or difficulty controlling anger, for example frequent displays of temper, constant anger, and recurrent physical fights.
  9. Transient, stress-related paranoid ideation or severe dissociative symptoms.

It is often exhausting having to prove to someone who suffers from these symptoms that they are worthy and wanted. Young adults who feel empty and scared of becoming abandoned by their parents, for example, tend to test and provoke their parents to find out if they are truly valued. The testing period seems to never end, albeit there could be brief periods of peace after an aggressive outburst. Females tend to act out the aggression against themselves with self-harm and suicidal ideation; males are more likely to externalize and act out the aggression against others or things.

(Video) How to treat Borderline personality disorder? - Doctor Explains

When there is the slightest suspicion that the person with BPD is not valued, the borderline person quickly falls to intense reactivity, accusing the other of intentionally undermining him or her. He or she might try to punish the other to make him or her stop the alleged neglect or hostility. Without even noticing, the person with BPD might successfully transfer his or her chaotic state to the other, meaning that suddenly the other might feel even worse than the one who has this disorder. This can be very painful, where it is hard to function and enjoy life.

Your borderline son or daughter might say hateful things. A borderline husband might break things, become physically abusive and/or threaten with dire consequences if the other is perceived as being disloyal or dismissive. A borderline wife might lose her temper in a split second when she feels disappointed, screaming loudly or threatening to hurt herself or others. What is there to do?

How to Navigate Relationships with People with BPD

1: Leave the abuser. When there is physical abuse of any kind and/or ongoing emotional abuse, one should not stay in a relationship. However, this is not always possible when the person with BDP is a close family member or an affiliate on a job site. Be deliberate about any steps you consider. Your safety comes first.

(Video) How to Successfully Manage Borderline Personality Disorder

2: Do not try to endure your suffering alone. Seek support. It is important to seek help to stop the abuse and the chaos. Your own happiness and the happiness of the one who suffers from BPD are at stake. It is our sacred duty to interrupt abusive patterns, to act and detach. We might have to consult with a psychotherapist or make contact with a treatment center.

Don’t let certain ideas stop you, such as thoughts about being a failure or “One should not air dirty laundry in public.” Shame can be a huge obstacle to reaching out and confiding in others who are in the position to help. In the name of happiness and your right to be happy, do not let shame stop you.

3: Set boundaries. There is hardly anything as effective as setting crystal clear, hard boundaries with a person who suffers from BPD. Instead of reacting emotionally, maybe by increasing the volume of your voice or crying, calm yourself. Allow yourself to become all reason, cold and collected, stating that the behavior of the other will not be tolerated. This is especially the case when it comes to your child. Saying “No” and stating your expectations is of the utmost importance.

(Video) What is Borderline Personality Disorder?

4: Help address “emptiness.” Without becoming the therapist of the one with borderline symptoms, talk about the underlying feelings that so often throw him or her into darkness. Discuss what is but a feeling of emptiness and look at the feeling together. This discussion must happen when all is calm. Thinking about feelings helps put distance between the experience, which is helpful when negative experiences seem to override every other part of consciousness.

5: Offer reading materials about BPD. The person who has BPD is much better off being informed of the diagnosis and what treatment interventions exist. Usually things do not get worse when one is in the “know” but the search for coping skills can begin.

6: Practice extreme self-care. People with BPD are exhausting as they tend to cross your boundaries. Make sure you nourish yourself and eat healthily. Take meaningful breaks (probably not online). Talk to your friends. Go for extra walks with your dog. Join a gym. Live a little! Take the time to strengthen yourself with meditation and focus on your breath or healing sounds. Notice where you begin and the other ends. Learn to notice when you identify with the “bad person” you are alleged to be. Learn to reject the identification, using affirmations, for example.

(Video) Borderline Personality Disorder: 10 Self Care Tips to Help You Cope with BPD

It is never too late to be kind to yourself and refocus your attention. Do not let anybody rob you of the space needed to participate fully in your life. Your happiness matters.

© 2021 Andrea F. Polard, PsyD. All Rights Reserved.


What is the best way to respond to borderline personality disorder? ›

How to Help
  1. Be patient.
  2. Be realistic.
  3. Try to separate facts from feelings.
  4. Validate feelings first.
  5. Listen actively and be sympathetic.
  6. Seek to distract when emotions rise.
  7. Do not allow yourself to be the product of the intense anger; attempt to diffuse it but sometimes you may have to walk away.
Jun 27, 2014

How do I calm down my borderline personality disorder? ›

What you could do to get through it:
  1. wrap up in a blanket and watch your favourite TV show.
  2. write all your negative feelings on a piece of paper and tear it up.
  3. listen to a song or piece of music you find uplifting.
  4. write a comforting letter to the part of yourself that is feeling sad or alone.
  5. cuddle a pet or a soft toy.

Why is borderline personality so difficult? ›

D. Living with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is difficult for many reasons, including unstable relationships, emotional reactivity and dysregulation, impulsivity, and other challenging features.

Do borderlines feel remorse? ›

Often it seems as though there is no remorse or regret when someone with borderline intentionally, or unintentionally, hurt someone they love. They say cruel things, act in cruel ways, and can cause real harm to themselves or to others. When called on it, they will act with little remorse or regret.

What triggers a person with borderline personality disorder? ›

being a victim of emotional, physical or sexual abuse. being exposed to long-term fear or distress as a child. being neglected by 1 or both parents. growing up with another family member who had a serious mental health condition, such as bipolar disorder or a drink or drug misuse problem.

What do BPD episodes look like? ›

Impulsive and often dangerous behaviors, such as spending sprees, unsafe sex, substance abuse, reckless driving and binge eating. Recurring suicidal behaviors or threats or self-harming behavior, such as cutting. Intense and highly changeable moods, with each episode lasting from a few hours to a few days.

What does BPD rage look like? ›

For example, a person with BPD may react to an event that may seem small or unimportant to someone else, such as a misunderstanding, with very strong and unhealthy expressions of anger, including: Physical violence. Sarcasm. Yelling.

How can I be happy with BPD? ›

Therapy can help people with BPD learn to better process emotions and events that upset them. Partners of people with BPD can also benefit from therapy. A professional can help a partner understand how to react, understand, and be supportive. Offer emotional support.

How do borderlines think? ›

People with BPD also have a tendency to think in extremes, a phenomenon called "dichotomous" or “black-or-white” thinking. 2 People with BPD often struggle to see the complexity in people and situations and are unable to recognize that things are often not either perfect or horrible, but are something in between.

Do borderlines cry a lot? ›

Compared to non-patients, BPD patients showed the anticipated higher crying frequency despite a similar crying proneness and ways of dealing with tears. They also reported less awareness of the influence of crying on others.

Do people with BPD have empathy? ›

Lack of cognitive empathy, ToM, mentalizing, social cognition, or emotional intelligence was found to be a common feature among patients with BPD.

Do borderlines Gaslight? ›

Certain personality types tend to be more manipulative than others. People with borderline personality disorder, narcissistic personality disorder, and sociopaths are more likely to gaslight those around them.

How do you stop a borderline episode? ›

If you suffer from borderline personality disorder, here are some ways to help cope with the symptoms that can lead to or trigger an episode:
  1. Take a warm shower or bath.
  2. Play music that relaxes you.
  3. Engage in a physical activity.
  4. Do brain teasers or problem-solving activities.
  5. Talk to a sympathetic loved one.
May 27, 2018

What attachment style do borderlines have? ›

The types of attachment found to be most characteristic of BPD subjects are unresolved, preoccupied, and fearful. In each of these attachment types, individuals demonstrate a longing for intimacy and—at the same time—concern about dependency and rejection.

Is borderline personality disorder a severe mental illness? ›

Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a severe mental disorder affecting around 1% of the population. It is associated with significant psychiatric comorbidity,2 impairment in social function3 and a high rate of service utilisation. Personality disorder as a whole is associated with reduced life expectancy.

Does BPD get worse with age? ›

Borderline personality disorder usually begins by early adulthood. The condition seems to be worse in young adulthood and may gradually get better with age.

How do you calm an angry BPD? ›

Listen actively and be sympathetic and focus on emotions rather than the words. Ensure that you demonstrate that the person with BPD feels heard. When someone is upset or angry, it's easy and understandable to reciprocate, but it is not helpful.

What happens during a BPD rage episode? ›

Relationships and BPD Rage

Rage in a person with BPD can occur suddenly and unpredictably, often triggered by an intense fear of being alone. Fear of rejection can be so intense that they begin to anxiously expect rejection. Subtle cues that they associate with rejection can set off unexpectedly intense reactions.

What do you do when your BPD is mad at you? ›

Validate their feelings, not their behaviours

You don't have to endorse what they are saying or doing, you don't have to agree with anything, but what you could do is validate their feelings. There are no right or wrong feelings; there are no logical or illogical feelings.

Why are people with BPD so miserable? ›

People with borderline personality disorder translate their anger or disappointment into impulsive action that they have difficulty reflecting upon or delaying. Their sense of abandonment by the ending of a relationship may make them feel desperate and enraged.

Is there anything good about borderline personality disorder? ›

For instance, a study has shown that people with BPD are able to read facial expressions and emotions better than those without BPD. Curiosity – Being extra sensitive and connection emotions, senses and surroundings allows for greater curiosity in the minds of those with BPD.

Can BPD live alone? ›

Borderline personality disorder is characterized by loneliness, social isolation, a fear of abandonment, poor social and communication skills, and unstable, difficult interpersonal relationships. The loneliness of living with this condition can be extremely painful, but treatments can be effective.

How do you respond to BPD meltdown? ›

Listen actively and be sympathetic and focus on emotions rather than the words. Ensure that you demonstrate that the person with BPD feels heard. When someone is upset or angry, it's easy and understandable to reciprocate, but it is not helpful.

How do you respond to BPD provocation? ›

In summary, be relentlessly respectful of BPD's suffering, abilities, and values. Be humble without disrespecting yourself or your own well being. Be honest. Communicate an expectation that someone with BPD will be able to behave in a reasonable and cooperative manner, and play to his or her strengths.

How do you respond to BPD silent treatment? ›

How to respond
  1. Name the situation. Acknowledge that someone is using the silent treatment. ...
  2. Use 'I' statements. ...
  3. Acknowledge the other person's feelings. ...
  4. Apologize for words or actions. ...
  5. Cool off and arrange a time to resolve the issue. ...
  6. Avoid unhelpful responses.
Jun 8, 2020

Do people with BPD have empathy? ›

Lack of cognitive empathy, ToM, mentalizing, social cognition, or emotional intelligence was found to be a common feature among patients with BPD.


1. The Personality Disorders Relationship Strategies You Should Know | MedCircle x. Dr Ramani
2. Understanding and Helping Loved Ones with Borderline Personality Disorder - Dr. Robin Kissell
(Hope for Mental Health)
3. How to Spot the 9 Traits of Borderline Personality Disorder
4. Every Way Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) Affects My Life | SELF
5. "Splitting" In Borderline Personality Disorder: What You Should Know
6. Overcoming Borderline Personality Disorder
(BrightQuest Treatment Centers)

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